I was expecting three heads, six toes, something like Frankenstein. But what I saw when I met four cloned mutts crooning for attention in a leafy Pasadena backyard was far more mundane. The dogs playing in the grass were teacup-sized terrier-schnauzer mixes — two pairs of cloned twins, Wolfie Bear and Wolfie Girl had salt-and-pepper markings and floppy ears, while Bubble Facer and Bubble Rubble had cocaine-white coats and elfin ears.
The owner of the dogs is a 49-year-old Thai emigre and entrepreneur named Peter Onruang. He never had kids — not human ones at least — and he never married. He wanted to share his life with his animals. So when his two dogs passed to the other side, he decided to replace them with their approximate duplicates. “When they were born, I remember when they popped out, I was there,” he said of the cloned sisters. “I’m not a religious person, but I always found this peaceful feeling with my dogs. I can’t explain it, but I love them.”
For attached dog owners like Onruang, cloning your dog is now easy, as long as you have the right-sized bank account. Startups from Texas to South Korea offer the service, which typically costs about $60,000 a pet (Onruang got a deal — two clones for the price of one).
Cloning entails copying a cell by transferring its nucleus into a donated egg cell that had its nucleus previous removed. After electrical shock stimulation, that egg begins to divide. After several days of dividing, the mass consists of embryonic stem cells that resemble an identical genetic twin of the original. You have five days after your pet dies to extract its genetic material for cloning, according to the Seoul-based Sooam Biotech Research Foundation, which offers dog and cat cloning services. The company recommends wrapping the deceased in wet blankets and throwing them into the fridge before you send the package. From there, scientists will harvest tissue and eggs, usually from slaughterhouses, then transfer them into surrogate mothers via in vitro fertilization.
It can take dozens of artificial inseminations into a mother animal’s womb to get a single egg to gestation. When that mother finally does give birth — there are…